Monthly Archives: September 2002

One Bad Apple Doesn’t Spoil the Barrel

I just saw on the news that Madelyne Gorman, the woman who beat up her kid in the Mishawaka Kohl’s parking lot, turned herself in. Apparently she is also one of the Travelers. The story on NBC said that the Travelers were a group of itinerant workers (sorta) who do a lot of driveway repair (among other kinds of work) and are frequently connected with petty theft. Um.

The Travelers are the folks who, in Ireland and Scotland, used to be called Tinkers. They travel around doing odd jobs — in SUVs and pickup trucks instead of wagons, these days. Among themselves they speak a fascinating English dialect called “Shelta” that includes large dollops of cant, Romani (“Gypsy”) and Gaelic words. They don’t have houses, pay and get paid in cash, and make cash loans among themselves to start the young kids off. This kind of community self-investment and low overhead (no rent or mortgage!) pays off big in small self-owned businesses, so many hardworking Travellers make a good living.

If you can name me an ethnic group or a profession in America that isn’t frequently connected with petty theft, I’d like to know. I have great confidence in my fellow fans at science fiction conventions, for instance, and in my fellow SCA members. I leave my stuff strewn around with a fair amount of confidence it’ll be there when I come back. Buuuut I know for a fact that there are thieves in both groups, because occasionally somebody is caught “mislaying” people’s stuff. Human nature.

But if you have a nomadic group and a few bad apples, law enforcement tends to assume that all the nomads are bad apples. I can understand their reasoning; “don’t trust strangers” is a simple rule to follow. It’s just not fair, that’s all, and tends to lead to the kind of horrible injustices that have been done against the Travellers and the Rom in Europe.

So let’s not all jump on the “Gorman is an abuser/Gorman is a Traveler/Travelers abuse their children” bandwagon that NBC seems ready to begin. We can do better than that.

Here are some Traveler links:

Travellers’ Rest: Travelers in the US by a half-Traveler computer programmer. (Beware of QuickTime Music!) His site includes information on Shelta: the language of the Travellers.

Travellers: Ireland’s Ethnic Minority

The fight for justice: the Barrett family of Galway: includes the sad story of an Irish Olympic athlete still being penalized for being a Traveller.

Pavee Point: Human Rights for Irish Travellers

Parish of the Travelling People: Archdiocese of Dublin: a nice outreach and anti-prejudice effort.

Travellers’ rights in the UK Essay on The Patrin Web Journal, which mostly deals with Rom rights.

Lyrics to Ewan MacColl’s “Freeborn Man of the Travelling People”, from his famous Radio Ballad show/album The Travelling People, over on Dick Gaughan’s site.


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Lawrence Lessig: Fighting for Our Human Heritage

If you believe in the public domain, if you want any work to become part of it ever again, and if you want to keep most books and films from rotting away before they can be reprinted — support Lawrence Lessig and pray for his victory in Eldred v Ashcroft, and that the Sonny Bono Act (permitting copyright to be extended indefinitely) will be declared unconstitutional.

Wired has a good article about him and his fight.

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Lloyd Biggle, Jr. — Dead at 79

Via Cory Doctorow’s Boing Boing, I belatedly learned that Lloyd Biggle, Jr. passed away on September 12. He was 79. Here is rec.arts.sf.written on his death.

Lloyd lived up in Michigan. He often attended the Detroit cons. I am proud to say that I met him and got to praise his work. It horrified me that more people my age hadn’t ever gotten to encounter his stuff. I literally begged him to write science fiction again, though his mysteries were good — because his science fiction mysteries are the best ever written, to my taste.

His regular sf was good, too. People talk of Larry Niven’s teleporter stories, and about flash crowds. Biggle talked about them first, in All the Colors of Darkness. And that was just at the beginning of the first Jan Darzek novel! There was much more to come. But he came between the Golden Age and the New Wave, and thus has been largely forgotten — except by the many writers and musicians and artists he inspired.

Biggle could write about love, friendship, beauty, and rhubarb beer. He could write about alien art and make you see it, and what’s more, feel something about it. He could do anything, and keep a pleasant, clever, fun, and poetic writing voice all the while. I can quote a few cute bits, but I warn you, the true impact of his work can only be felt by reading a whole story or novel. He loved to build things up so that a simple line took on enormous meaning. Half the stuff I’d love to quote is a huge spoiler. So you’ll have to trust me on this: you will enjoy reading his books.

Among the myriads of dead worlds in the universe, few had numbered a private detective among their mourners. This world was one of the rare exceptions — because it had been murdered.
This Darkening Universe, 1975.

“You are a man with a dead violin, and I cannot help you.”
“Wings of Song”, 1963.

It came to O’Brien quite suddenly that he was dying…The boys shouted a song as they dipped their paddles — a serious song, for this was a serious undertaking. The Langri wished to see the Elder, and it was their solemn duty to make haste.
Monument, 1974 (from the 1961 short story).

“Someone has arrived!” he hissed.
“On time? Who would have such filthy manners?”

Watchers of the Dark, 1966

The fact was that Gwyll loved art — good art — and because he knew that there would be little good art without the striving of a great many artists to become great, he possessed a benign tolerance for sincere mediocrity. He respected any painting, even a bad painting, that was crafted with integrity. It was only artists that he hated.

…tourists milled everywhere, almost, but not quite, outnumbering the artists. For the first time in his life Gwyll grasped the awesome significance of an old Donovian curse: “An epidemic of artists”. Zrilund was said to have originated the expression, but a hundred other towns and villages of the world of Donov claimed it or something like it: an epidemic, a blight, an affliction, a scourge of artists; a pollution of artists; a seizure of artists; a rot of artists…

Then he glimpsed a flash of color and forgot the artists.

Fountain at Zrilund! Several great artists had painted it, and thousands of bad artists…But the greatest of the paintings, even Ghord’s “Fountain Lights”, paled beside the breath-taking, chromatic turbulence of the original. Scientists had tested and analyzed and experimented and explained but never quite accounted for the fact that the rare combination of mosses and fungi and algae in and about the Zrilund mountain turned its quiet mist into brilliant, swirling color.

…Gwyll stood motionless, stunned by the overwhelming beauty of blending, ever-changing colors. They made him aware as never before of an intrinsic weakness in even the greatest painting: only by implication could it show change and movement.
The Light That Never Was, 1972.

If you seek his monument, look on the sf shelves around you. You may not see his name, but he’s there, in the writers he influenced. So again from Monument, a fitting epitaph for Lloyd Biggle, unsung mastersinger:

“I wonder if you and your people are aware of what a great man Cerne O’Brien was. ‘Genius’ is something of an understatement for him, considering what he did. I suppose in time you’ll have buildings and villages and streets and parks named O’Brien, but he deserves a really important monument…Too late to change it now, but you should have named your world ‘O’Brien’.”

…”O’Brien?” Fornri asked blankly. “Who is O’Brien?”

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Wild Boar Hunting, the SCA Way

This post on Musings of a Catholic Seminarian reminded me of a story that a Hordesman told us at Harvest Day last weekend.

It seems that some guys wanted to go wild boar hunting with crossbows. He, having read a bit more about wild boars, went with a boarspear. And a big honking broadsword. His companions laughed and thought him paranoid. But sure enough, when they brought a boar to bay, the boar ignored even heavy crossbow bolts. It rushed at the hunters. He set his boarspear and caught the boar a good one, saving his fellows from getting gored. In classic fashion, it attempted to rush up the boarspear at him and struggled to get past the large quillon designed to prevent that. His friends held the boarspear with its butt set against a tree, while he unsheathed the broadsword he carried on his back. He tried to cut the boar’s head off or at least sever the spine, but his sword kept hitting the neck bones and wouldn’t go through. About then, the boar finally decided it was dead after blood loss caught up with it.

Granted, these boar hunters weren’t experienced. But I think this “no sh*t, there I was” story should demonstrate why European boarhunts in the Middle Ages often ended with hunters dead. Boars are tough.

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Gerald Serafin put me up on the St. Blog’s list! Callooh, callay! Now, as long as I don’t think of the fast company I’m in, I won’t feel depressed….

An Irish Poem to St. Catherine of Alexandria

Okay, okay, so she’s not technically a saint anymore. But she’s still an important symbol of the educated woman, etc. And it’s a good poem. Here’s the original and my translation, but I’ll just put the translation up on my blog. (Sorry it’s not prettier and doesn’t rhyme like the original.) Caitir-Fhiona is pronounced more like “Katherina”, what with the “fh” being silent and all.

Star of the world, Catherine,
helper of the Greeks,
Helping the chosen people, saving each,*
there at their dying.

Catherine, honored daughter,
branch of virtue,
a face like fresh appleblossom,
green brow.*

A green brow on the Greek king’s daughter
not captured by a suitor —
in the shade of her cheeks is brightness
and a berry’s color.

Berry’s color and sun’s garland*
in crimson cheeks —
many a knee bending from the source*
in tufted locks.

In the shape of her curved eyes, Catherine
is not surpassed by Greek women.
Curved eyes do not look at a young man —
bright-toothed dark mouth.

Face like an apple, breast like a swan,
a virgin not violated.
Feather-down is not brighter than her shining white hand–
green eyes, bright cheeks.

The virgin with her cheeks will not be found
without a suitor
till you stretch your cloak over my madness,
son of Mary.

Brigid of Ireland and Scotland,
the virgin of the islands —
she is the misty-bright flower of the young women,

Athrachta, helper of Limerick —
speedy enough
is the white-soled young woman of the Boyle,
wax candle.

Gentle white Ciaran, Columcille–
gentle the company–
Patrick, Martin, Mongan, Manann,
Coman, Coireall,

The Trinity, great Mary and Michael —
sunny band–
eleven thousand noble virgins of the Boyle,*
flower of pure virgins.

*helping the chosen people: “clann” means children or clan, but it sounds like “chosen people” is what’s meant….

* abhra uaine/green brow: “uaine” means green or greenery. McKenna translates this as “dark brow”, but I have a feeling it could also refer to the laurel crowns you sometimes see on pictures of saints (because of St. Paul’s comparison of life to a race, and achieving Heaven to the athlete’s laurel). It would be especially fitting for Catherine as a Greek Egyptian to wear such a crown of victory. (Shrug)

* inghin Gr�igr�ogh/the Greek king’s daughter: I don’t know if it means anything, but a good number of Irish fairytales have the hero meet up/quest for/marry the king of Greece’s daughter. Anyway, as far as I know, European legends of St. Catherine of Alexandria do not make her a princess — just a philosopher — but the Irish like to elaborate.

* sun’s garland: sunshine.

* many a knee bending from the source/In tufted locks: This means her hair is curling in the same shape as bended knees. I think. 🙂

* eleven thousand noble virgins of the Boyle: This sounds like St. Ursula, doesn’t it?

Okay, so I’ve seen a lot of prayer/courtly love type poems before, but I think this poet really needed a girlfriend! Or at least he was reallllly trying to pursue Wisdom…. 🙂 But I like it.

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The other day it was just sinus. Today I’m depressed. As usual, I set it off by stupidly thinking about my own life. If I could just ignore my own existence, I’d be a happy woman.

I recently saw a post in which someone claimed that the song “Here I Am, Lord” set people up in their own esteem. ExCUSE me? Would this be the same song that makes me feel about as low and unworthy as the ending of “Saving Private Ryan” or the Parable of the Talents? Not to be ungrateful, but God overgifts and then expects you to use them all. Personally, I agree with Mulder, who wished to be like Ahab, with a wooden leg, so nobody would expect him to make much of his life.

I think that’s why martyrdom is so attractive to kids. You know you can be stubborn. You know you can stand being beaten up. You feel like crud already. Why not pray to be allowed to suffer and die for a cause, instead of on the cross of your own unworthiness
and “potential”? The thing St. Teresa de Avila doesn’t say in her memoirs is that her family was of Jewish heritage, which was probably why we only hear of her playing with her brothers. If you’re being persecuted by the neighbors, why not try running away from home to die with the Saracens? Heck, when I was in parochial school, it sounded like a good deal to me.

I have good hope that I won’t end up in Hell. But I’d almost rather be damned than know how much God is going to be disappointed in me.

Oh, well. At least I’m in choir and filking. Those things I know I’m supposed to do.

With a Voice of Singing

Despite my depression today, choir practice last night was wonderful. We finally have a decent number of altos. (Yay!) I’m still not really used to not being able to hear myself, and I still can’t read music, and I’m still getting too far-sighted to keep an eye on the hymnal. (One of these days I’ve got to make the trek to an eye doctor, but I don’t have the money.) But I’m doing okay, and for a first practice the choir sounded wonderful.

I wish I knew how to write out music compositions. I have a lot of good song ideas this time of year, and I would love to write something for the choir. Something Irish would be nice, especially a translation of something from the good bits of the Middle Ages, set to my music. *sigh* Well, I’ll work on it. Maybe I can get somebody to help me write it out at OVFF, or get advice there from Joe Ellis or Ed Stauff or somebody like that. I can hear the harmonies in my head, but it doesn’t do me much good stuck up there.

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Don’t Overdo the Caffeine

I’m awake. I don’t want to be. A peevish post inspired by this follows.

The Old Gray Net Just Ain’t What She Used to Be

I first got to borrow somebody’s account in 1985 or earlier, and I did get a few moments on the Net while in college. But they wouldn’t give you an account unless you were a prof or taking an advanced computer course, alas. So I first got online (by BBS and Fido) in the summer of 1993, which allows me to give myself airs and complain about how nowadays it’s “forever September”.

One sign this is so? The odd bit of whining about Nihil Obstat. If Gharlane of Eddore, peace be upon him, was still alive and posting (and btw, that post in the Titanic group isn’t the real him; he died in real life soon after his last June post and was much mourned), he would show how gentle Nihil (or should that be Nemo?)’s corrections really are. Typos, misspellings and grammar errors are violations of truth, according to the old ways of the Net. To point out such errors is the work of a friend; and to joke about errors is not only inevitable but lends interest to the enterprise.

Then there is Mr. Rose’s threat of legal action against Fr. Johansen. If Johansen’s comments could draw forth his sort of whine, it’s a pity he was never on Usenet, where he could have been repeatedly heard the sound *plonk* as he was filtered out (and no doubt sent copies of the famous Standardized Bonehead Reply Form by Joe Shaw, as well as the Ultimate Flame. O, for a muse of fire!

I miss the old Net. It was sometimes ruder and cruder, but it was gentler, too. Strange that college kids raging for days over simple questions could have more sense of proportion than a published, nationally-known author. But given that the published author in question even managed to look like a whiny git on Book TV, and that his book does a wonderful job of discrediting his own side, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

For the record, Mr. Rose? *PLONK*

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